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Caring for a Premature Baby at Home

By: Rachel Newcombe - Updated: 18 Mar 2010 | comments*Discuss
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Premature babies are usually cared for in hospital for some time before they’re able to go home, so it can be a big step to finally be able to take your baby home. Here we explore the early days of caring for a premature baby at home.

It’s the moment you’ve waited been waiting and longing for, but learning the news that your premature baby can at last go home and be with your family can cause a range of emotions. Most people are of course overjoyed to be able to take their baby home at last, but it’s only natural to be a bit anxious about how to care for your baby, especially if they need any extra help or treatment.

Most hospitals will have provided you with extra support and help in the run-up to taking your baby home. Some, for example, may allow you to stay for a night or two, so you can be involved in caring for your baby for 24 hours or more, which helps get you used to what will be required when you’re back at home. Parents of newborns can be extra concerned about ensuring they do everything right, so this preparation can boost confidence.

Taking Your Premature Baby Home on Oxygen

Some premature babies still need to remain on oxygen, even though they’re otherwise fit to be discharged from hospital.

If this is the case, then you should have been taught everything you need to know about the oxygen before your baby goes home. You’ll be trained on how much to give and how to use the oxygen unit. If you’re unsure about anything, either ask before you leave, or don’t hesitate to phone and ask with queries once you’re home.

Keeping Your Premature Baby Free from Germs

Premature babies are often more prone to germs and infections than other infants, so you may need to help protect them from germs, at least in the early stages of being at home.

Although germs may only cause mild problems for healthy babies, for those born prematurely, it can be more of a significant impact and cause problems such as breathing difficulties.

There are plenty of practical things you can do to help keep your premature infant away from germs. Even if people are keen to come and see or hold your baby, it’s wise to ask anyone wanting to hold her to wash their hands first. If anyone has a cough or cold, has recently had one, or lives with someone who has germs, then it’s best for them to keep away until your baby is stronger. Keeping away from crowds is also advisable.

Sleeping at Home

Don’t worry if the first few nights sleeping at home aren’t perfect as your baby may take a bit of getting used to the new environment. Your home, for example, is likely to be a cooler temperature than the neonatal ward and in hospital, your baby may have slept on her stomach.

Back at home, you should put her to bed on her back, to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), unless you’ve been given other advice by a doctor. Premature babies can have a higher risk of SIDS, so if you need reassurance that they’re okay, then you could fit an apnoea alarm if you wish.

Baby Vaccinations

Even though your baby was born early, you should still ensure that the essential baby vaccinations are given at the same time as other babies. Keeping on schedule with immunisations is important for health reasons, and may help add protection against germs and other viruses.

If you need any extra help or advise with caring for your premature baby at home, then do speak to your health visitor, GP or hospital.

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